By Muawiya Muhumed Burale
The Government of Kenya has established a Northern Collector Tunnel that will gather water at the source in the Aberdare forest and divert it to Thika’s Ndakani dam for use in Nairobi, according to opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Raila said that the tunneling of the project in Murang’a poses danger to the lives of the communities living along the Tana River such as Garissa, Ukambani, Tana River and Murang’a. Raila further claimed that the project begun in 2014 and has been classified by the World Bank as one that will have devastating impact on the environment.
The residents expressed their concerns on this project which they fear will deplete underground water resulting in the opposition and the government to exchange words on this tunneling project.
In September last year, the court stopped the Northern Water Collector after an engineer claimed its construction would hurt the residents and river.
A Kenyan Cabinet Secretary defended the project; he said the World Bank carried out environmental impact assessment before assenting to the operation. The Cabinet Secretary said that the growing population in Nairobi needs more supply of water for human use.
Some of the leaders in Northern Kenya also expressed their views on the World Bank initiative and said that it will affect the lives of residents since most of the residents dwelling along Tana River were pastoralists and farmers.
MY LIFE IN TANA RIVER
I was born and brought up at the edge of Tana River in Garissa in the early 1990s and raised by a pastoral family who were at that time devoted to farming. My father embarked on the cultivation of a land that was given to him in 1991 as a proportional share from the Agricultural scheme of our clan.
I used to swim and wade through the river water; I played and made it a platform to refresh my mind and spent much time in my childhood years on the sand dunes of the river.
I always visited the weekends and holidays to engage the activity of digging and weeding the farm in order to assist my father immensely.
We depended on agricultural produce mainly as way of boasting our standard of living. The expenditure we received from farming imparted knowledge for many in our family; we considered this resources as one of the most valuable natural treasury from the mighty Tana River after a long struggle and hardship.
Being peasant in the harsh terrain areas in Northern Kenya is difficult and tiresome to produce more harvest but it needs lots of perseverance, determination, dedication and courage. Despite all these hardships, my father displayed a bold character by struggling for better living conditions for us, as well as overcoming , striving and handling the adversities he encountered without any assistance from well-wishers or from our government.
Highlighting the archives of my mind, there was a time when logs and Somali traditional houses floated on the river; farms became submerged leaving some farmers in relentless and desperate situation. This happened when Tana River broke its banks. On those days, crocodiles were rampant and appeared in the horizon while carrying animals to devour. At times, these amphibians would float and sometimes plunge to the depth of water as if demonstrating buoyancy force.
At that time, as young children, we would whisper to each other to witness the crocodiles hunting and we used to run on the edge of the river throwing some pebbles and chanting in unison to save the animals from the jaws of those fierce crocodiles. Some farmers engaged the issue and rushed into the interior to release the animals. Sometimes it bore fruits. The crocodiles not only risked animals but also hunted the human beings who went to the river to fetch water.
As a journalist who has worked with many media platforms in Northern Kenya, I presented, developed and produced special programs discussing the affairs of the peasants and the challenges affecting them. River Tana is the only source that allows them to practice farming and siphon its resources immensely. Determined to tell the world the real situation on the ground the issues that broadly impacted the lives of the vulnerable peasants and to advocate their rights as well as broadcasting the facts, were sometimes, quite hidden.
Residents of northern Kenya were nomads and roamed from one place to another to search for pasture and water for their animals. Now, it seems if this project is implemented, the situation will become more worse and create a disaster that will be hard to tackle.
Muawiya Muhumed Burale
The writer is a Freelance Journalist based in Garissa, Northern Kenya
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